top of page

The Best of the 1980s: The Technology That Shaped the Decade.

In terms of technology and mass culture, the 1980s were a fascinating decade. We take a look back at iconic gadgets from the 1980s for this week's tech flashback.

image credit:

The 1980s are noted for their important contributions to the development of future technology. The introduction of the Nintendo GameBoy and NES, the rise of Sony Walkman and Trinitron TVs, the success of the Casio calculator watch, and the VHS craze represent the eventful ten years to a large degree. This list will take you on a trip down memory lane if you are a fan of 1980s gadgets.

Apple Macintosh

On January 24, 1984, when Steve Jobs unveiled the Macintosh at the Flint Center on the De Anza College campus, it wasn't yet another device. It was Apple that showed the rest of the world how to build a mass-market machine. In any way, the Macintosh 128K, as it was called back then, was impressive. It came with a keyboard and mouse and had a 9-inch monochrome monitor. Not to mention the fact that this was the first device to introduce graphical user interfaces (GUIs) to the general public. The first Mac also had two serial ports which could hold one 3.5-inch floppy disc. Sales of the Macintosh were initially powerful, reaching 70,000 units in the first year. The initial unit cost $2,495, which is about $6000 today. In September 1984, it was replaced by the Macintosh 512K with more RAM. Jobs spared no cost in promoting the first Mac. The classic 1984 Super Bowl advert, directed by Ridley Scott and costing Apple $1.5 million, made the company a household name.

image credit:

Nintendo Entertainment System

Few people may have predicted the effect of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) on the video game market when it was released in the United States in 1985. The US version of the Famicom, which was first released in Japan as the Family Computer (Famicom), single-handedly rescued the home console market, which was on the verge of bankruptcy at the time. Few people are aware that Nintendo had planned to collaborate with Atari to release the Famicom in the United States as the "Nintendo Advanced Video Gaming System," but the agreement fell through. The “Famicom” was given a western makeover, and the renaming scheme was successful. The NES was released in the United States with almost 17 games, but Super Mario Bros. was not yet ready for release. Nintendo's greatest first-party IPs, such as The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros, will still be associated with the NES. About 60 million NES consoles and 500 million games were sold worldwide.

Image credit: sony walkman video/screengrab

Sony Walkman TPS-L2

Sony's Walkman, the iPod of the 1980s, has a long and illustrious history. The legendary Walkman TPS-L2, a palm-sized mini portable tape player with silver buttons and two headphone jacks, was introduced on July 1, 1979, and forever changed how people listen to music. The Walkman quickly became one of the most successful electronic goods in history since its release in the United States. Sony has since launched numerous Walkman models, and although Apple's iPod has since replaced Sony's portable tape player, the Walkman is still regarded as a new and popular culture symbol. Sony discontinued the cassette-based Walkman line in 2010, but wireless walkmans are still available. In reality, the most luxurious high-end Sony Walkman, targeted at audiophiles, costs an incredible $3199. Since the introduction of the TPS-L2 format, Sony has sold over 400 million Walkman players worldwide.

Image credit:

Casio Calculator Watch

Remember Marty McFly's watch from Back to the Future? Because of the built-in calculator, the watch (Casio CA-50) became extremely popular in the 1980s. Casio is said to have produced one of the most forward-thinking watches available in the 1980s. On a tiny watch, one might store names, numbers, contact information, and much more. The Databank series gave watches a fresh look, something Cupertino is doing now with the Apple Watch. Wearing a calculator on your wrist was considered unconventional. Casio's Databank collection demonstrated the designers intended to use the wrist for more than just watches. The Databank has a special spot in the hearts of Casio watch collectors still today. Casio, in particular, continues to sell calculator watches. For example, the CA53W-1 has dual time, a regular alarm, a stopwatch, an auto calendar, and a 5-year battery. The case is water-resistant to 50 meters, and the watch is just $25.

image credit:

Nintendo Game Boy

Nintendo Game Boy shook up the computer game industry when it was released in 1989. It was the most successful portable game console, despite not being the first. The first Game Boy, like Nintendo's new consoles, was not a technological wonder. The 8-bit portable console featured a chunky physical interface, a monochrome monitor, and the ability to swap cartridges. It did, however, pledge an incredible 30 hours of battery life. Nintendo's pitch about having an NES in your wallet played well for them. With four buttons and an eight-way D-pad joystick, the Game Boy was identical to the NES controller, making it easier to play sports. A special cable allowed for up to 16 people to play local multiplayer on the Game Boy. Because of these characteristics, as well as the fact that Nintendo included Tetris as one of the launch games in North America, the Game Boy was an immediate hit. Despite strong competition from Sega, the Game Boy debuted at a price of $90 and sold over 1 million units during its first holiday season. Over the course of its existence, Nintendo sold almost 120 million Game Boy units worldwide. In 1998, the Game Boy Color replaced the iconic portable console.

Special mentions

1. Sony Trinitron TVs

Sony dominated the industry in every product segment, including televisions, in the 1980s. Japanese products were thought to be superior, with Sony being the most well-known. In North America and Europe, owning a Trinitron television was considered a status symbol. Sony's Trinitron TV became a household name in Western markets thanks to its sleek design, high price, and superior CRT technology. Trinitron TVs became so common that wealthy Indians would often travel to Singapore or Hong Kong to purchase them. Trinitron's picture quality was so fine that Sony began licensing its CRT technologies to computer manufacturers including Apple and Dell. However, in the 1990s, flat-screen monitors began to pose a threat to CRT technologies. Sony sold 280 million Trinitron TVs worldwide since their introduction in 1965, and the company agreed to stop producing CRT TVs in 2008.

2. VHS player

You can remember the Video Home System, or VHS if you grew up in the 1980s. The videocassette recorder revolutionized home television by allowing people to film and view their favorite shows at their leisure. At the moment, it was considered a technological advance. However, in the 1990s, after Hollywood ceased releasing movies on VHS, the format began to lose ground to DVD. Though most people have forgotten about VCRs, their effect on home entertainment cannot be overlooked. People's binge-watching habits and how they consume video material on their televisions changed as a result of VHS tapes.

3. Atari 2600

Without referencing Atari, where Steve Jobs began his career as a technician after dropping out of Reed College, this list will be incomplete. The story of Atari's rise and decline is intriguing. Atari's impact on video games, especially in shaping the home console industry in the 1970s and 1980s, will be remembered for a long time. Though arcade games like Pong helped Atari gain popularity, the Atari 2600 and subsequent consoles became the pinnacle of the company's success.


To help their work, Newsmusk allows writers to use primary sources. White papers, government data, initial reporting, and interviews with industry experts are only a few examples. Where relevant, we also cite original research from others respected publishers.



bottom of page